Mourners flocked to St. Peter’s Square hoping to pay their last respects to the Pope, who made history with his resignation.
ROME, Italy – Mourners flocked to the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI early Thursday. to St. Peter’s Square, hoping to pay one’s last respects to the German theologian who made history by retiring and attend a rare funeral mass for a dead pope, presided over by a living one.
Thick fog shrouded the Vatican before dawn as civil defense teams and police manned metal detectors and barricades to herd well-wishers into the square. Police estimated about 100,000 would attend, more than the original estimate of 60,000, Italian media reported, citing police safety plans.
Francis is set to preside over the funeral, an event that draws heads of state and royalty, despite Benedict’s pleas for simplicity and the Vatican’s efforts to keep the first funeral for a pope emeritus low-key in modern times. Only Italy and Germany have been invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella have confirmed their participation.
But other leaders decided to accept the Vatican’s offer and come in their “private capacity.” They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers and two delegations of royal officials.
The funeral rite provides for Benedict’s coffin to be carried out of the basilica and placed in front of the altar while the faithful pray the rosary. That The ritual itself is modeled after the code used for dead popes, but with some modifications given, Benedict was not a reigning pope when he died.
After Mass, Benedict’s cypress coffin is placed in a zinc coffin and then in an outer oak coffin before being buried in the crypt in the grottoes beneath the basilica, which once housed the tomb of John Paul II before it the main basilica was moved upstairs.
Around 200,000 paid tribute to Benedict during the three-day public visit at St. Peter’s Basilica, with one of the last, Brother Rosario Vitale, praying on his body for an hour. He said Benedict gave him special permission to begin becoming a priest, which was required because of a physical disability.
“That’s why I came here today to pray over his grave and body and say ‘thank you’ for my future priesthood and ministry,” he said. “I owe him a lot and it was a real gift to be able to pray on his stretcher for an hour.”
The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died on December 31 at the age of 95, is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century and spent his life defending church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a unique, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy: he retired, the first pope to do so in six centuries.
Francis has vowed Benedict’s courage to step aside when he felt he no longer had the strength to lead the church, saying it “opened the door” for other popes to do the same. For his part, Francis recently said he had already left written instructions setting out the conditions under which he too would resign should he become unable to work.
Benedict never intended his retirement to be this long — at nearly 10 years, it was longer than his eight-year pontificate. And the unprecedented situation of a retired Pope living next door to an incumbent Pope prompted calls for logs to guide future popes emeritus to avoid confusion about who is really in charge.
During the quarter-century of Saint John Paul II as Pope, the former Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led a crackdown on dissent and cracked down on the left-leaning liberation theology that was spreading in Latin America in the 1970s and dissent Theologians and nuns who didn’t take the Vatican’s hard line on sexual morals.
His legacy was tarnished by the clergyman sex abuse scandal, though he recognized earlier than most the “filth” of priests who raped children and actually laid the groundwork for the Holy See to punish them.
As cardinal and pope, he passed sweeping church law that resulted in the impeachment of 848 priests from 2004 to 2014, roughly his one-year pontificate on either end. But abuse survivors still blamed him for the crisis for his failure to sanction a bishop who drove around and identified abusers as such embodies the clerical system which protected the institution from victims for a long time.
“Any celebration that marks the lives of abuse workers like Benedict must end,” the main US survivor group SNAP said.
Although his funeral is novel, it has a precedent: in 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral of his predecessor Pius VI. in St. Peter’s Basilica, who died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/pope-emeritus-benedict-xvi-funeral/507-a6b0e9a8-457d-422c-ad79-4e95d68b40c1 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI remembered at the funeral